Alexa, play “Changes” by David Bowie.
Every year, technology gets more advanced, more multifaceted, and more pervasive. As that happens, the roles of e-commerce platforms become increasingly crucial for businesses seeking to meet their buyers anywhere and everywhere.
The largest country driving e-commerce is still China (Alibaba Group is only part of it), with annual online sales nearing 700 billion USD, but the US is picking up speed. With the help from industry leaders Amazon and eBay, the US e-commerce sector is growing tremendously — by almost 15% annually — and the forecast for the future is more of the same.
Of course, “the same” isn’t really the same: it’s growth and change, like we’ve always experienced. 2018 is revolutionizing the way consumers and companies communicate, sell, browse, and buy. To help you keep up, we’ve compiled a list of the 25 most important e-commerce statistics and trends to pay attention to this year.
What matters most
1. After price, the top three most important factors to consumers when they shop online have to do with the website’s design and functionality. 80% of consumers say price is very or somewhat important to them, with easy product search capabilities (78%), site performance (78%), and intuitive site navigation (75%), and a speedy checkout (75%) all close behind. 72% also said that customer product reviews were important to their online shopping experience.
2. 68% of consumers are more likely to trust a brand online when they see both positive and negative reviews, whereas 95% will suspect censorship or fake reviews when they don’t see bad ratings.
3. Less than 1% of consumers leave a site after seeing a badly-reviewed product, indicating that bad reviews don’t deter customers from a brand, but rather direct them toward things they will like.
4. 69% of people find UGC (user-generated content) more authentic and therefore trustworthy than brand-created or stock images.
5. The four leading e-retail categories in the US in 2017 (by sales) were consumer electronics at $54 billion, clothing at $48 billion, and furniture/homeware and hobby/stationery at $38 billion.
6. The leading online marketplaces in the US by e-commerce sales last year were: Amazon, Inc. (55 billion USD), Walmart (14 billion), and Apple and The Home Depot (6 billion).
7. An emerging trend in online retail is a visual search capability. In a 2017 survey, 35% of millennials and 30% of Gen X-ers expressed interest in being able to search for products in a physical store or online catalog using images, videos, etc. This is becoming increasingly present, with brands like eBay and Pinterest implementing visual search tools on their apps and websites.
Pinterest's visual search tool is now being used on the Target app. Users can find items similar to those they see and like by simply taking a picture of the item in-app.
8. 81% and 80% of respondents in a study, respectively, said email marketing drives customer acquisition and retention. Email’s usefulness was followed by that of other digital tactics like organic search at 62% for acquisition and social media at 44% for retention—both rated effective by far fewer respondents than chose email, and:
9. The most effective type of email is the welcome email (sent after a consumer subscribes to a mailing list), generating 320% more revenue per email than promotional ones.
10. The average B2B buyer/researcher is younger than 35 years old.
11. Forrester estimates that by 2021, B2B e-commerce will reach $1.2 trillion and make up 13.1% of all B2B sales in the US.
12. Over half of B2B purchases are made online, which 93% of shoppers prefer over speaking with a sales rep.
13. The online share in the B2B market is currently just 2-3%, compared to the 12-15% share in the B2C market; however:
14. Experts approximate that the online B2B market will reach $6.7 trillion by 2020, which is more than twice the anticipated size of the online B2C market for that year.
Mobile commerce trends
14. The most important e-commerce functions to B2B marketers are mobile support (with 98% responding that it is either critical or important) and product management (97%).
15 Google recently switched to mobile-first indexing, meaning the search engine will use the mobile version of a website to rank the site and understanding its content. This is a response to the shift toward most users accessing Google via their smartphones versus a desktop.16. 42% of B2B buyers use a mobile device in the process of researching their purchase.
17. Purchase rates on mobile have increased 22% from the past 2 years.
19. Mobile payment systems (such as Apple Pay and PayPal) are gaining traction for their convenience. The number of people using these systems surpassed 100 million in 2017, and is expected to reach 150 million by the end of 2020—which at that time will be 56% of the consumer population.
E-commerce in the research process
20. More than half (55%) of Americans begin their product searches on Amazon, whose sales compose 44% of all e-commerce sales in the US. The second is eBay, with a share of only 7%.
Amazon in brick-and-mortar: At an Amazon Go store in Seattle, WA, customers link their phones to their Amazon accounts to enable automatic scanning and purchasing of the items they take out of the store.
22. 74% of buyers research at least half of their work purchases online to avoid dealing with a sales rep, and:
24. Buyers research online even when they purchase products offline. A survey revealed that 98% of global business buyers do at least some online research on work-related purchases that they complete in-person.
25. A company’s website is the number one place for consumers researching a product to get information, with 74% of consumers using it as a resource, while the second biggest research touchpoint is email, at 43%.
The reality is that e-commerce is not what it once was. Building sites and processes that engage buyers and drive revenue means building product content that first attracts buyers, then tells them everything they need to know, to learn, to “see” and to touch to help them convert.
Watch how Wehkamp tells better product stories and delivers a better CX with inRiver.
Lisa Trowbridge, Marketing
Lisa is a budding marketer and writer, and a senior at Miami University in Ohio. She loves peanut butter and skirts with pockets, and doesn’t believe in horoscopes, but always reads hers anyway.
There’s not really one single secret to drive omnichannel e-commerce success. It is just hard to accomplish, but not for the reasons you think. No e-commerce organization will be able to drive revenue and deliver a great customer experience without understanding who their buyers are, how they want to buy, and where they buy. Understanding these three areas is really the key to success in an omnichannel world.
Omnichannel retail is defined as, “a modern approach to commerce that focuses on designing a cohesive user experience for customers at every touchpoint.” This is a vastly different than traditional marketing when specific channels were used to reach specific buyers, without a focus on a continuous customer experience.
Today’s most successful e-commerce organizations understand the value that omnichannel provides and focus on optimizing their engagement at every opportunity.
3 tips to achieve omnichannel success:
Identify Who Your Buyers Are
Sounds like an easy question to answer, but it is one of the areas in which marketers often struggle with. Building an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is critical to every sales and marketing organization. Anyone can sell a few products here and there, but once you understand who your ideal buyer is, the world is your oyster.
Benefits of building an IPC include a building a deeper understanding of who you ideal buyer is so that you can find more of them. It’s an exercise to narrow down the prospective buyer pool that will help identify more of the kinds of buyers that are likely to purchase your solution. Why spend time and resources driving demand for buyer that will never buy from you?
There are many areas to focus on when building out an ICP, but a great start includes key verticals, size of company, department, and job title. For example, when identifying verticals for your ICP, don’t go too deep, especially if you are just starting out. Pick one or two verticals (retail and branded manufacturing are our top two verticals at inRiver) where you know your buyers are and there is a clear fit. Focus on those and then expand into other verticals or industries as you learn more about your buyers and their needs.
Learn How Your Buyers Buy
The majority of browsing happens on mobile devices, but buying still happens on a desktop. That is not shock. However, most e-commerce sites are still not optimized for search, limiting a buyer’s ability to find your organization and your products. Make sure to reduce load times. Fast load times not only improve customer experience, but also impact search rankings in a big way.
Ensure your site is mobile-optimized as well. If a buyer goes to your site as part of their process and it’s not mobile-friendly, they’ll leave before the first page renders to fit the screen. And they probably won’t return if they have a poor experience.
Discover Where Your Buyers Buy
Although this post is about omnichannel e-commerce, it’s about knowing your buyers inside and out. It’s essential to understand every channel your buyers use to purchase because “online” just isn’t enough.
“96% of Americans with internet access have made an online purchase at some point in their lives, and four in five (80%) have done so in the last month alone,” from The Complete Omni-Channel Retail Report. This ties into understanding your ICP as well, but knowing what channels your buyers prefer will help you optimize content and offers to engage them.
Delivering omnichannel e-commerce means providing content in a consistent and seamless way to help guide and assist the buyer in their purchase, anytime and anyplace they seek it.
To be successful in e-commerce today, marketers need to understand their buyers before they try to market to them. Begin by identifying who the buyer is, how they like to buy and where they buy to build the strategies to engage them. Being “online” isn’t enough, it’s about being the best solution available online that matters.
To learn more about omnichannel e-commerce, listen how L’Oreal drives results for their organization.
Why does the rumor mill continue to say retail is dead? It’s not. Retail in 2018 is evolving like everything else, and some companies are adapting better than others. According to a recent Forbes article, physical retail is not dead, but boring retail is and it’s time for you to get creative and become remarkable to succeed.
The most savvy retailers know the secret to becoming remarkable is to optimize the customer experience both online and off. Top ecommerce organizations are doing this by creating compelling content stories, ensuring that customer experience online is pretty darn amazing to help drive purchases, increase average order size and minimize returns.
Retailers that aren’t focused on the customer experience and adapting to the omnichannel way of life are falling behind. Consider Toys-R-Us who didn’t adapt fast enough and has sadly gone out of business. Innovative brands will not only adapt, but will thrive by harnessing the power of their content stories.
So how do you keep your company relevant with product content stories?
1. Dig deep. Online retailers don’t have the luxury of buyers picking up, feeling, trying on or even closely examining their products. That shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Be descriptive and exacting in product descriptions to connect with your customer. Share what the fabric feels like if it is a clothing product or textile, clearly and artfully describe the color, and show images of the product from every single angle including zoom functionality. Why? The more descriptive the language, the more the buyer can “engage” with the product, and evaluate everything they want to see. Don’t make the buyer wish for more information.
Ethan Allen offers extensive, relevant product details, additional product information, as well as care and warranty information. If the buyer doesn’t find everything they need, they offer a chat window on the product page and multiple photos to see the furniture in different settings.
Don’t forget to give detailed care instructions, build time, or weight or size details for products too. It all matters when the buyer is comparing products online. Online, more information is better and the best description often drives the purchase.
2. Context increases average purchase. Online buyers like to see products in context. Think of an outfit versus just a shirt or a pair of shoes, paired with the right pants or dress. In-store buyers have the luxury of being wooed by complimentary or adjacent products, while online, too often marketers neglect to offer context to their products.
In the article, “Why Presentation and Context are Crucial in E-Commerce Product Photos” by Neil Patel, an image of a GE refrigerator shows not just the refrigerator, but different views of the refrigerator filled with food. This helps the buyer connect with the purchase, showing how different food fits in the refrigerator. The context matters and ensures the buyer has all the information they need to imagine how their food might fit in the refrigerator, and helps drive conversions.
3. Use emotion. Product stories online are more than just showing the product and providing detailed views. Successful ecommerce marketers tap into the emotion that the product delivers to deliver remarkable experiences. For example, in the Neil Patel article, Netflix shows a family enjoying a movie, snuggled lovingly together on a couch.
Netflix didn’t show a picture of the mom trying to download the movie or show her using a remote. The image and product story highlights how Netflix enables families to enjoy time together, not the functionality of Netflix. Top performing brands understand the role emotion plays in the content story to drive the connection between buyer and product. It’s a critical component of the customer journey.
Although there are many challenges retailers face today in driving revenue in our ecommerce-focused world, retail is far from dead. The key to success is to become remarkable and memorable via content stories. Exceptional content is what will make or break a brand today online.
Want to learn more about how to create remarkable product content? Listen to our podcast PIMtalk, covering all things marketing, product information management, and everything else under the sun to keep you at the top of your game.
Erika Goldwater is a B2B marketer with almost 20 years of experience in demand generation, public relations and global events. She creates marketing that drives revenue. Goldwater is a CIPP/US and has been consulting for leading SaaS organizations including Protagonist, Leadspace, Eloqua and ANNUITAS, a demand generation strategy consulting organization.